A Goalkeeper's to-do list: the Big 3

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Published Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Goalkeeper's “To-Do” List: The Big Three”

Courtesy of Washington State Youth Soccer Association's Play On!  To learn more about Washington State Youth Soccer Association visit http://www.wsysa.com.

By Rob Walker
US National Team Goalkeeping Coach

The old adage about practice being the key to an athlete's success should not be lost on the aspiring youth goalkeeper.  Current research says that an elite athlete playing in a team sport needs about 10,000 practice sessions in a 10 year time period to achieve “elite” status in their sport.  In order to get these practices in, a soccer player (field player or goalkeeper) should look at training outside the team to work towards the 10,000 practices mark. 

 While training with the team is very important for the goalkeeper, here is a list of “to-do” items that young goalkeepers should spend time doing on their own.  In some cases, these are activities that can be done alone or with a partner, and can be done daily if the goalkeeper desires. 

1. Fitness Work
The goalkeeper should spend time developing core strength by focusing on the abdominal area and working against the body's own weight (push-ups, isometric stands, etc).  There are a lot of ways to work the abdominal area: using a physio-ball offers challenging activities that develop the abdominals; pushups can be done with a variety of “hand placements” to work different areas of the upper body and arms) hands in a wide position, one hand forward, one hand backward, hands close together in a diamond position, etc).  Also getting into a “high” push up position and holding that position for a short period of time is a great way to work the muscles in the upper body and help challenge the core as the goalkeeper tightens his/her stomach area.  The goalkeeper should try to complete as many repetitions as possible in a given period of time.  Working for a 30 second period upward and building to two minutes is a great way to progress forward.

Another part of the goalkeeping fitness model lies in working on accelerating, getting set and then sprinting again.  On his or her own, the goalkeeper should sprint forward, backwards, shuffle and spring sideways over “goalkeeping” distances; 6 yards, 8 yards, 12 yards, and 18 yards.  Setting up simple patterns that use a start, a stop and 1-2 charges of direction in a short spring is really the key to the fitness work the goalkeeper does alone.  An important concept to this work is not to work for too long a period.  A short sprint forward, getting set, a quick back-peddle and then another sprint forward might take 8-10 seconds.  IT is important to then take 30-40 seconds rest before repeating this sprint movement again.  Working in sets of 5 sprints and completing 3-5 sets will give the goalkeeper what they need to stay physically sharp.

2. Shot Stopping/Angles/Crosses
Another important ingredient to improving technique is working with a partner on angle-play and deal with shots and crosses.  Working in sets of 6-8 serves as a good place to start.  In cases where the goalkeeper has to “explode” off the time more, the number of repetitions should be cut down with rest given in between each set.  The partner working with the goalkeeper should be reminded to give good service (getting the reaction is the key here, not scoring the goal).  This kind of practice is a great way the goalkeeper and the partner use competition to push each other to perform at the highest level.

This kind of practice should be planned out ahead of time.  The goalkeeper should get enough opportunities to make saves, work on starting positions, adjust angles and react to challenging service.  It's helpful to have a good supply of soccer balls so that this practice can be lively. 

3. Kicking/Throwing/Punting
One of the most valuable reasons for individual practice is improving technique in the key areas of distribution: kicking (and 1st touch), throwing and punting.  The goalkeeper can work against a gym wall or covered play area to practice distribution techniques on his or her own.  With a partner, the goalkeeper can serve both long and short, trying to hit cones for accuracy or play the ball over the goal.  There should always be a “game” element to this practice with some rules (what is inbounds, how many touches can be taken, how is a point scored, how long is the game, etc).

In many instances, goalkeepers are separated by their ability to distribute the ball.  Individual practice often sets the stage for young goalkeepers to improve in this area.  Most youth goalkeepers can see significant improvements in their kicking, throwing and punting technique with several months of regular practice.  Often, a goalkeeper can “negotiate” some time to get individual work in during the team practice as well as getting the work done on non-training days. 

Please visit http://usyouthsoccer.org :: usyouthsoccer.org.

Last update on 6/11/2008
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